ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Usually, college resident hall assistants, like Grand Valley State University Sophomore Mike Porter, mediate roommate problems and take up other common dorm-related issues.
This year is different.
“It’s going to be a lot of stuff to try and enforce, and a lot more responsibility trying to maintain how the building is, ” said Porter of Clarkston.
GVSU has created both face-to-face, hybrid and also completely online options for many classes.
“The hybrid plans sound really good to me,” Porter said. “And on top of the safety protocols that they’re going to be maintaining, I think they should feel safe to come back. I think they should be ready to come back.”
Dorms will be one student to a room, class sizes are reduced and social distancing markings are everywhere from hallways to bathrooms.
Even move-in day, a tradition that brings students and school leaders together as a community, is being paired down and spread out.
What is usually a three-day event is now seven.
“If you are moving into a suite, you and your suitemate can’t move in at the same time. You have to be on different time slots, so we don’t have people bumping into each other,” said Greg Sanial, Grand Valley’s vice president for finance and administration and CFO.
“Additionally, you’ll see stickers all over the campus for traffic flow and all of that, just to minimize those kinds of interactions because we’re really looking to what we call de-densify the campus for our students and then also for our staff.”
While prevention is a major part of GVSU’s back to school plan, so is monitoring and tracing.
Along with following public health guidelines, GVSU has partnered with Spectrum Health to create a Virus Action Team, or VAT.
Sanial is leading that effort.
The team will rely on the four Ts: testing, tracking, tracing and technology to make sense of information.
“For instance, like a 24-hour hotline for our community. You wake up, you don’t feel well, you can call this hotline,” Sanial said.
The school has also created a health self-assessment app for students and faculty for daily updates.
“And that’s where you ask questions like, have you had a fever, have you had a test?” Sanial said.
If the app sends up any red flags, the student or faculty member will get a call from VAT staff to further assess the situation.
In an Aug. 10 email to students, GVSU President Philomena V Mantella said the daily assessments, set to begin Aug. 17, are mandatory for students and faculty.
“The self-assessment should be completed each day before noon. Just as with face coverings, we will start with care and reminders, move to educate, then look for a remedy, which could include a failure to comply report to Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution or Human Resources. Not completing the self-assessment would be considered a violation of university policy and would be actionable,” wrote Mantella.
But Friday, GVSU Associate Vice President Mary Eilleen Lyon said that section of the letter had been modified.
“It is our intention to have everyone participate and rather than use required. We are focusing on the ‘why’ so people will understand the public health and follow-up care aspects and fill it out,” Lyon said in a follow-up text to News 8.
Quick turnaround COVID-19 testing sites will be set up on campus.
Regular testing will be available for those who have symptoms, those who have been exposed and those most likely to be exposed, like RAs and athletes.
They will also do randomized testing.
“Every couple of weeks, we’ll pull in a statistically significant number of people and test them, so we can determine that asymptomatic spread that could potentially be in our community,” Sanial said.
If someone on campus is identified with having the virus, the response could vary.
For example, if the exposure involved a dorm, the virus response team could quarantine the dorm.
But if it’s a couple of students in a class, the class would likely move to online for a few weeks. Contact tracing would also begin.
Setting up the protocols is one thing. Getting college students to follow them is quite another.
The university has launched the Lakers Together, Protecting Each Other campaign to get students to buy into the effort.
“We’re working that now. Just an education program to get them to understand the importance of that,” Sanial said. “We’re never going to prevent COVID-19 from getting on to the campus. But when it does, we want to be ready to control the spread as much as we can.”